James Bond Midlife Crisis

James Bond movies are known for their dialogue only insofar as it figures in an innuendo-laden seduction or a cheeky send-off line; it’s not a franchise you look to for metatextual awareness. Yet, S.P.E.C.T.R.E. manages to surprise everybody by announcing that the Double-0 program is nigh; after all, in the modern era, wiretapping and drones can replicate the result of just about any field old-fashioned espionage. “The French have a saying,” M says, “Glass is made to break. Maybe it’s the fate of spies to just disappear.” We start to understand that spies like James Bond is an antique and can’t help but wear its self-consciousness on its sleeve.

This, of course, isn’t the first time Mr. Bond has faced a cyber threat. Javier Bardem’s Silva, the archvillain in Skyfall, was a hacker. But whereas that movie used hacking as the baddie’s weapon of choice, the digital threat in S.P.E.C.T.R.E. is coming from inside the house: a new head of the Joint Intelligence Service. Intelligence official C (played by Andrew Scott) is building his bureau a new glass house—and somehow doing so unironically—and wants to establish an international surveillance consortium that would obviate the need for spies. But in the metanarrative of S.P.E.C.T.R.E., C also represents all of us, wondering if James Bond is just plain outdated. That said, while the idea of 007—smug womanizer with good aim and a bad liver—is getting tired, what S.P.E.C.T.R.E. brings to the table is far from it.


However, it’s lost on no one that the guy who recently said he’d rather slash his wrists  than do another 007 movie ends this one by saying he’s “got something better to do.” It seems that the James Bond franchise is experiencing what too many brands lived once in their lifetime. What a pity to observe that, when the marketing tool that can start to bring answers on the table, is often called the James Bond tool. David Taylor’s pragmatic tool became a classic (http://wheresthesausage.typepad.com) and I sometimes use it to see whether a brand should move its fundamentals to stay actual and modern, even more competitive and attractive for the consumers.


If we dissect this simple logic, it’s all about defining the powerful equities of your brand and making them actual, understanding the competitive landscape but also the cultural background (through consumers and trends). The simple question is what should be expressed differently to continue to engage people. In the Bond example, the “brand proposition” has stayed pretty consistent: Bond beats The Baddie to save the world. And they’re loads and loads of “executional equities” including: the theme tune, the catchprases (“Bond. James Bond”; “Martini. Shaken not stirred” etc.), the gadgets, the cars, the girls…Each of these key equities has been refreshed over time to keep the brand relevant. The world has got more dangerous, and so the Bond Baddies have got more evil. Dr No looks like a suave gentleman now. Technology has become more advanced, and Bond has to compete with a host of new competitors such as 24 and The Bourne Supremacy. And the role of women has changed, with Bond girls now wanting to be on top (in more ways than one….), even if Halle Berry did wear the same orange bikini as many years ago. Just try it for your brand and you may understand that you have it all but you should just refresh the pillars by understanding and studying the business and cultural contexts.

007 is that watch, the iWatch. Unnecessary when you have an iPhone, but still nice to look at it. Bond knows what time it is, and he also knows that time isn’t up. Yet. We just have to work it out.


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